Fashion writer Francesca Gardner took a trip down to Cardiff fashion’s worst kept secret to delve into the treasures it holds after a year in service to the city’s most dedicated style seekers…
Having recently celebrated their first year anniversary, it seemed the perfect time to explore and uncover the secrets of Cardiff Fashion Quarter. Found hidden away in an old converted cinema on Womanby Street, the quarter is revealed only by a small and inauspicious sign meekly positioned on the nearby high street. The creative collective moved in over a year ago, and when asked about how the Quarter has changed over the last year, the general opinion was that since having come into new management Cardiff Fashion Quarter has not stopped growing, establishing more and more boutiques and welcoming in new and loyal customers.
The Quarter represents all things original and independent, each boutique offering something completely different but equally one-of-a-kind. Stepping into CFQ is like entering into some kind of wonderland with the most unassuming little tunnel leading and opening up into a hidden grotto of unique and timeless treasures. Walls are lined with rails of one-off vintage items, rows of beautifully-bound old leather books, handmade trinkets and clothes, quaint and crooked crockery, perfectly preserved vinyl and everything, anything and nothing that you could ever imagine.
The creative collective holds an original outlook in that despite the contrasting range of items each boutique offers, each seller looks out for the other, supporting each others’ businesses and helping out with the customers. There is a great sense of community and the set up provides an opportunity for unhindered creative output, independence and ultimate freedom within their own, individual businesses. One of the greatest aspects of CFQ is that each boutique has been started from scratch, no one has blindly entered a pre-existing position or role. Each business has been built with a genuine passion and this is immediately obvious from the time and effort put into each individual outlet.
One of the most inspiring of these stories is vintage clothes boutique Rock-Ola Reborn, one of the original CFQ labels, which was founded over twenty years ago and has remained in the family ever since. It offers a whole range of lovingly sourced and scouted vintage items spanning both women’s and menswear. Each piece is individually hand-picked, and they offer the best range of vintage tie-dye tees and bomber jackets! Freak Unique Boutique is another family-run clothes business, started up by mother and daughter Irene and Laura Pickering who specialise in 1950s-inspired handmade dresses and accessories, all with their own original twist, while Eagle Eye and newest boutique on the block Blue Honey each offer their own take on seasonal vintage fashion. Look out for Blue Honey’s latest order to arrive in, with the menswear focusing on warm and wintry vintage wax jackets for the upcoming colder months. Nelly’s Treasures is a little treasure trove in itself. Here you can find much sought after vintage cameras and limited print art pieces, along with renewed and remodelled clothing in endless patterns and prints. Expect little surprises here and there, with not every item appearing as it seems. How about a skirt made out of a pair of shorts or a jangling belly-dancing band made out of a recycled vintage scarf? There are twenty five individual boutiques in total selling an all-embracing range from old punk records, original artwork, vintage toys, E-Cigarettes, books and brik-a-brack, a whole heap of handicraft and the Quarter even has its own flea market.
With Christmas coming up, CFQ would be the perfect place to pick up something a little more thoughtful and one-of-a-kind. The infinitely diverse and eclectic fare to choose from in CFQ means that there is literally something for everyone. Festive preparations are well underway in the Quarter, with Laura’s Little Haberdashery selling handmade felt Christmas baubles in the shape of adorable little robins, stockings, Christmas trees and puddings.
Many of the CFQ boutiques hold or participate in events and nights around Cardiff, including ‘Blue Honey Presents’, a new disco, funk and soul night held every Friday at Cardiff’s Gwdihw Club by the Blue Honey guys. One of the most long-running and successful of the events associated with CFQ is the Cardiff Teaclub, held every Wednesday in Windsor Place’s Buffalo Bar from 8pm-3am. Run and organised by Rock-Ola manager Daisy Green, Teaclub is a unique event that looks to celebrate all the best things in life – tea, cake, drinks and good music! For a small donation you can help yourself to unlimited tea and selection of delicious homemade cakes whilst enjoying live acoustic music and a reggae/roots sound system later on in the night. With a different array every week and impressive bake-off competitions every now and then, Teaclub is not one to be missed.
As well as this, Rock-Ola often takes part in the monthly Buffalo Boutique, a late-night vintage fair held in the upstairs of Buffalo Bar on the last Monday of each month. It’s a great opportunity to snap up some vintage bargains and November’s Buffalo Boutique looks to be a major event in lieu for Christmas gift-giving. The night will all be in celebration of Movember, with the promise of a charity catwalk from the moustache-branding male staff.
Speaking to the manager of CFQ, Cyrus Mirzashafa, the collective have plenty more plans for expansion, looking not just to extend and open up another level of the building but also to completely revamp the interior, open up a coffee shop and organise even more events to be held in both the Fashion Quarter and other venues around Cardiff. Full Moon Club, also on Womanby Street, is soon to be collaborating with the Cardiff Fashion Quarter, promoting them and helping them put on more nights at the venue. Following the cinematic heritage of CFQ, one of the first décor changes in the pipeline involves lining the walls of the tunnel that leads into the Fashion Quarter with black and white celluloid camera negatives, giving the effect of an omnipresent and ever-running series of images when light is shined upon them. Hopefully this plan for infinite projection reflects the Quarter’s future in Cardiff. The CFQ looks to grow bigger, stronger and even more diverse in the coming months, initially hard to stumble across but ultimately unforgettable – just mind you don’t get lost in this often-overlooked whimsical wonderland.